By Aaron Keebaugh
Grant money from Mass Highway Safety Division’s Traffic Enforcement Program enabled the Revere Police Department (RPD) to beef up enforcement and crack down on traffic violations in 2012, according to statistical data the RPD provided to the Revere Advocate before the Christmas holiday.
“The grants allow the department to put more effort on public safety,” Police Sergeant Chris Giannino said in an interview from his office the Thursday before Christmas.
“It’s the high accident areas we go after,” he added, noting that the grant money allows for more police presence in some of the city’s more notorious and accident-prone areas, such as the 107 Circle. The increased enforcement, Giannino went on to say, “is grabbing unlicensed and unregistered drivers off the road.”
Some of the foot power comes by way of the Highway Safety Grant, a three-phase program with 15-to-20-day mobilizations spread throughout the year, each one covering major travel holidays like Christmas and New Year’s, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Departments that receive grant money are required to assess the number of ticket violations, citations, and arrests after each phase.
The grant provided the Revere PD with about $2,000 per mobilization, said Giannino, and tallies show that the program yielded 270 total passenger tickets between May 13 and June 3, 2012, including 54 tickets to drivers not wearing seatbelts under the Click It or Ticket phase of the program, which ran during the same time frame.
In addition, patrol officers wrote 292 total tickets under the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over phase, which ran from August 15 through September 3. The phase further yielded 11 criminal citations and two arrests, according to the tallies.
It’s a major step up from the previous year, and the increased traffic enforcement went beyond the phase periods.
In 2011, Revere PD provided only minimum traffic enforcement, resulting in just over 1000 total ticket violations, said Giannino. By August 2012, the department had broadened its efforts, and tallies from this past fall reveal significant increases in the total number of tickets issued.
In that month alone, the traffic patrol officers wrote out 402 tickets, more than ten times the amount from August 2011. Even the low-ticket months of October and November—the department issued 81 October and 61 November tickets in 2011—saw two to three times as many tickets written out for violations, according to tallies.
Totals from all of the grant programs this past year include 913 tickets issued (450 tickets from overtime), 894 citations, three arrests, and seven criminal citations for unlicensed and “dangerous” drivers.
The increase in enforcement also resulted in more tickets being paid off on time. Documents show that in November 2011, 100% of tickets issued were more than 10 days late. But by November 2012 that number had dropped to only 16 percent.
“It’s a big drop and the result of someone keeping an eye out on enforcement,” said Giannino.
Giannino cited RPD Grant Manager Kathy Callahan and Police Chief Joseph Cafarelli for their efforts in building up traffic enforcement.
This year Callahan doubled the grant money coming into the department, Giannino said. According to Callahan, she was also instrumental in bringing in new sources of funding. 2012 marked the first year that the RPD was successful in securing a Pedestrian Safety Grant, a funding program geared towards areas that experience high pedestrian injuries, such as in school zones, train stations, and other areas with heavy foot traffic. Revere was one of 19 cities statewide to receive the grant.
And to focus on traffic enforcement, Chief Cafarelli authorized overtime pay for officers, which the city funded, Giannino added. “The Chief gave us the ability for me to put guys out there,” he said. “I can get a guy over there on school zones, getting people going around buses.”
In a phone call Wednesday with the Revere Advocate, Chief Cafarelli said that the overtime pay extends to officers across the department and offers incentive that draws more officers to traffic-related work. “Traffic safety, that’s what we’re here for,” he said.
The state contributes as well. Under the Highway Safety Grant, the state pays for 14 4-hour blocks of overtime, which comes to about $150 per block, Giannino said. The officers working those blocks write up between $1,500 and $2,000 worth of fines, he added. Half of that money comes back into city coffers, the other back to the state, he continued. “It’s a no-brainer. It doesn’t cost the state or city much… It’s a public safety matter, not a money maker.”
But budget cuts and threats of budget cuts loom large in this age of austerity. And if the state cuts funding for these grant programs, then the city would lose the enforcement covered under the overtime money, said Giannino. “If there’s no one in Traffic, there’s no accountability.”
Chief Cafarelli commented: “Everything is on the block. We still need to function. If we do need to make cuts, that’s [Traffic] not where we can make them… I’d be very reluctant to cut there.”
In addition to enforcement, Giannino went on to say that the department uses some of the grant money for additional public safety, such as implementing and repainting the reflective striping at crosswalks.
Giannino said that early plans for 2013 include sending officers to school zones to crack down on aggressive driving in those areas, but it’s also “a visibility thing,” and police presence makes the kids and their parents feel safer.
The programs that run off of these grants “doesn’t cost the city a dime,” he said. “We’re giving the state back work and productivity … It’s not a guy in a cruiser, it’s a guy working. Kids see the [officers] out there, parents see them—it’s going to have an effect.”